United States long-serving Senator, Dianne Feinstein, a titan of US political history who attained legislative achievements during a three-decade career in the Senate, has died at age 90.
The Senate’s oldest member was celebrated as a pioneer for women in politics and a hugely effective legislator.
During a career that began in the local California government, she grew to be a tough check on administrations from both parties.
According to CNN, she had already announced her retirement this February as her health worsened and following a number of missteps that threatened her legacy.
Her death is not expected to shift the tight balance of power in the Senate, with the Democratic governor of California appointing a temporary replacement for the remainder of her term, which ends in January 2025.
U.S. President, Joe Biden was quoted saying, “Senator Dianne Feinstein was a pioneering American. A true trailblazer. And for Jill and me, a cherished friend.”
Feinstein’s chief of staff James Sauls hailed her as a rare example of a woman who could call herself “senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom, and grandmother.”
“Senator Feinstein was a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state,” Sauls said in a statement announcing that she had died late Thursday.
The Californian, who was widowed last year, became San Francisco’s first female mayor after the fatal shooting in 1978 of city official Harvey Milk, then the country’s only openly gay politician, and mayor George Moscone by a disgruntled former colleague.
Democrats in her home state led tributes as news of the senator’s death cast a pall over Congress, with staff placing flowers on Feinstein’s desk in the Senate chamber.
An emotional Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, described Feinstein as a “hero for so many” who “changed fabric of the nation,” while his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell hailed the devoted service of a longstanding friend and “remarkable individual.”
An icon in Senate politics who took the lead on hundreds of bills, Feinstein rose to the chairmanship of the powerful intelligence committee — another first for a woman.
Her achievements include writing the 1994 assault rifle ban and producing a 6,700-page report on the CIA torture program during the US “war on terror.”
But it was in her home state of California where she first made her mark.
As the first female Board of Supervisors president in San Francisco, Feinstein led the city through the tumult that followed the Milk assassination.
She replaced the mayor and served for 10 years as a no-nonsense pragmatist, willing to work across the aisle, balancing nine budgets in a row and being declared the nation’s “Most Effective Mayor” by local government bible City and State Magazine.
Latterly, the pandemic and her husband’s declining health curtailed her public appearances outside of Congress and she faced misgivings about her declining cognitive abilities, raised by figures in her own party.